Editors love it when a story piques so much interest that letters flood the inbox. Talk about 9/11 Truth or global warming, or free a columnist to use pointed prose, and you’re bound to get a deluge in response. Yet it’s nearly impossible to seed storm-clouds—more often than not, the most reaction comes from a piece that seems straightforward.
Take Jaime O’Neill’s cover story on Holocaust survivor Bert Schapelhouman (“The way to Mauthausen,” CN&R, Aug. 2). We got a couple letters of praise, plus a handful posing thoughts the account provoked. One reader made a connection between national-security rhetoric from 1930s Germany and 2000s America. Another noted a continuum of repression stretching beyond Hitler into contemporary China.
Only one person criticized the article. That individual is Gregory S. Withrow.
For those who don’t recognize the name, Withrow is a white supremacist who lives near Oroville. He gained national attention for recanting his racism on the Montel Williams Show, then recanted that, and two years ago he had himself crucified in front of the State Capitol to protest U.S. border policy.
His letter came by mail in a hand-addressed envelope, lined with a peek-proof pattern, its sealed flap adorned with a 1-cent stamp depicting an American Kestrel bird. Unfolding the white paper inside, I read:
“The front page article of The CNR ‘LEST WE FORGET’ fails to state the exact criminal nature of Lubertus Schapelhouman.
“His crime for harboring enemies against Aryanization, is Racial Treason.
“He is a Race Traitor!
“The Causes of Genocide are often complex, but none are ever ‘forgotten.’
“The CNR should quit trying to act so naïve and simple minded.
“What is Forgotten, is that the Capitalist Press, continues to push one side of the story, while Trivializing and Marginalizing, the Reasons and Needs of White Aryan People’s.”
Mr. Withrow went on to say, “The CNR’s propaganda is ‘Politically Correct.’ “—a label he also applied to “Ignoring countless Whites that are victimized by Nortenos, Soreno’s, Asian, Crip and Blood GangBangers and a Totally Indifferent Government to Our People in California” and “The adoption of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Value Systems as Replacements for Western Values in America.”
He ended with the following:
“Yes! We Aryans wiped from this earth Six Million Jews!
“To saying we are denying this act of Genocide is a CNR Propaganda Lie!
“This is but one Reason as to why we HATE YOU!”
I won’t bother to debate the merit or lack thereof in Mr. Withrow’s message. I expect I’ll be debating the merit or lack thereof in my decision to give it an audience.
I’ve done so for the same reason the story ran in the CN&R, spelled out in the cover headline Mr. Withrow recited: Lest we forget.
In a friendly place like Chico, it’s easy to forget hate, but hate-filled people are among us. I didn’t anticipate getting this sort of letter; I probably should have. It delivered a wake-up call. Lest we forget—indeed.